BEERSPIT NIGHT AND CURSING: The Correspondence of Charles Bukowski & Sheri Martinelli, 1960–1967

Charles Bukowski, Author, Sheri Martinelli, Joint Author, Steven Moore, Editor . Black Sparrow $30 (300p) ISBN 978-1-57423-151-9 ISBN 1-57423-150-2

Literary bad boy Bukowski and New York editor/scenester Martinelli—Ezra Pound's former girlfriend—exchanged hundreds of pages of wacky, outrageous, often oddly intellectual correspondence, but never actually met. Moore, who knew Martinelli and has written or edited several volumes on William Gaddis and others, posits, in a very necessary introduction, that Martinelli "was one of the favored few for whom Bukowski dropped the mask and engaged in serious discussion of literature and art." Predictably, Bukowski wasn't meticulous about saving Martinelli's letters, so his voice dominates, which is not a bad thing—his letters are more substantively and stylistically interesting than Martinelli's, which tend to mimic Pound while reacting to Bukowski's offenses and exaggerations. Hell-bent on breaking every rule of style, Bukowski sometimes achieves lively, spontaneous prose ("don't you go slipping me no god damned educational material, I got an education of my own, mostly all at once one night"), sometimes cryptic utterances ("much short, today. tied to rocks of all sorts but will escape") and outright misogyny ("I do not read a female face; I read a female ass"). While Bukowski's letters (often written under the influence of alcohol and nausea) are shot through with vulgarity, much semi-concealed literary criticism can be gleaned. This important volume will be required reading for scholars of Bukowski, Pound, the Beat poets and American postwar art and poetry. Fans of Bukowski's irreverent ranting will rejoice; others may tire of his relentless, self-indulgent misanthropy. 16 pages of illus. not seen by PW. (June 29)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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